Upping Our Discussion Game: Some Encouragement


Whew, I just got done with another quarter of school, which involved reading books and online discussion (and developing an early stage of a thesis proposal).

One thing I learned this quarter is that people can be civil even when discussing the most difficult and passionate views (e.g. Zionism and the policies of Israel). I wondered to myself “why is that?” and “why is it so hard to have that degree of civility on NCFP?”

One thing is that it is an expectation set by the school and the faculty. Another is that we “covenanted” or pledged to the following at the beginning of the year:

I covenant to encourage a challenging intellectual environment through the cultivation of critical reflection, curiosity, creativity, and the sense of adventure.

I covenant to encourage openness to transformation by learning through open, honest, respectful dialogue with one another.

Now, I am not asking us to make that pledge to each other, but I am asking each of us to consider or reflect on approaching our dialogue this way. And we might still want to “learn” without being “open to transformation.”

I think many folks have slipped on this road, including me, and I am not going to single anyone out. As of now, though, I’d ask all of us to step back and try to work on a couple of things to NOT do :

1. Name calling, sarcasm and snark.
2. Questioning people’s motives (i.e. people on or off the blog)
3. Lumping people into groups (e.g., Sowell works for the Hoover Institution, therefore we all know he’s not worth listening to).

Meanwhile, I do think “who is funding the work and what are their qualifications” are relevant questions, because those point to the structure of how information is developed.

And a something TO FOCUS ON:

What evidence do you have to support your claim that agrees/ disagrees with something posted? Personal experience is fine, history is fine, just be clear on why you disagree so the rest of us can understand.

I know we do fairly well, and it’s harder to do this, but I think we can up our game with some tweaking. A benefit might be, in addition to better discussion, some gentler souls may feel more comfortable commenting.

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